Repost:  Can Happiness Be Cultivated?

I’ve been writing about happiness recently.  This is the third (and final) installment in a series of pieces on this subject.  The first installment can be found here and second one, here.

While prepping myself to write this, I began to think of analogies.  Can happiness be cultivated in the same way a farmer prepares for a good harvest?  Think about it; a bumper crop doesn’t just happen by accident.  Of course, there are things (like weather) that are beyond the farmer’s control.  Even so, he has much power to affect the outcome of his efforts.

For example, if he studies agriculture, he can learn what sorts of crops grow best where he lives.  He can find out the right times to plant and how much water and fertilizer to use.  If he learns and uses his learning wisely, he can know the most optimal time to reap what he has sown and what methods work best to get the food out of the field and to the consumer.  In other words, the farmer has within his power the ability to create the conditions that make it more likely he’s going to have a productive growing season.

We sometimes think that happiness just happens “to” us, and we are right to see things this way.  There are instances when we can experience it without any sort of effort.  In the first piece I wrote on this subject, I described such an evening.  I didn’t start out that night hoping or trying to be happy.  Happiness just happened, rather unexpectedly, for a few different reasons, some of which I wrote about in that blog and the one that followed it.

I’d like to think more about intentionality in this piece.  The successful farmer is very intentional in the way he approaches farming—he doesn’t just blunder into a good crop.  Can people approach happiness in this way too?  Can we very deliberately create the conditions that make it more likely we’ll experience happiness (or blissfulness or peacefulness or whatever word you want to use to capture the essence of this wonderful feeling)?

To answer this question, I thought about happy times I’d had in the recent past.  I wanted to see if they had anything in common, if I could draw any insights from those moments that could be used to form a hypothesis.  Here’s what I noticed.

In almost every instance, at least one of the following things was true:

  • I was where I most wanted to be
  • I was with the person or people I most wanted to be with
  • I was doing what I most wanted to do at the time

The ideal conditions for experiencing happiness would be to have all three of these things present.  If such a scenario occurs, a near perfect context has been created.  Such a context makes it far more likely that a person can experience pleasure or happiness because the conditions are favorable.  Conversely, it’s harder (but not impossible) to have a good time or be happy if these conditions are not met or present.

I am playing with my new where/who/what theory of happiness.  Can I use it to make short-term and long-term plans?  It’s certainly worth thinking about.

What do you think of my theory?  I look forward to your insights, words of wisdom, and critiques.  Thanks for reading!

19 thoughts on “Repost:  Can Happiness Be Cultivated?

  1. I totally support this idea! In fact, I wrote a book about developing happiness!

    When I was trying to learn how to be happy and move forward from my past where I reached a point of feeling completely worthless, I saw there were a few barriers in my way. The dirt from my past kept rearing its head in the form of how I spoke measly and harshly to myself and how I kept selfsabotaging so that I’d continue to have more ammo against myself.

    I learned it was a process, and wasn’t a direct line to happiness. Rather, it’s about working through the issues that block us, to remove them, and to teach ourselves to like ourselves. Happiness comes as a result, when all the old garbage is removed.

    It’s tough, soul grinding work, and requires perseverance, but it is doable and possible for each of us.

    1. Hi. It sounds like you’ve learned a lot about yourself through the years. Like you, I often was very self-critical, especially during my younger years. In fact, I often beat myself up. I’ve learned to be much kinder on myself in recent decades.

      Your book sounds interesting. You should post a link here so that everyone can check it out.

      Thanks for reading and commenting.

  2. Your theory is intriguing Troy. I think that the three conditions are definitely linked to living the present moment. You also have to consider that in life you cannot always be happy. There will be moments of sadness, hardship and sorrow that you should learn to accept as part of life. The good thing is that those moments will pass away, as in life all is constantly changing.

    1. I agree with the three conditions. Simple and they make sense, and also about living in the “now.” My husband and I are currently going through a difficult period in our lives (his mother passed away just a few days ago) but you are absolutely right – you have to accept those periods and allow life to take you further on. I also believe “happiness” is an ideal not often reached. Or, indeed, not something to stress about!

      1. Hi, petchary. I wish you much growth through this difficult time you and your husband are going through. Thank you so much for reading and commenting.

    2. Totally agree with you, crisbiecoach! I think that peak moments–of extreme sadness and happiness–are quite rare. Our default condition is somewhere between the two.

      I have a lot of thoughts about the concept of happiness. For one, we don’t really know what the term means; it’s very vague. Is happiness a form of giddiness or something more like contentedness? It’s hard to know if we’ve achieved a certain condition unless we know what that condition is first. Plus, I think we’ve often romanticized “happiness.” We believe that the unhappy life–by the way, is “sadness” the opposite of “happiness” or is the opposite “unhappiness”–is to be avoided at all costs. Stressful moments can teach us so many important life lessons. Such moments can help us live an examined life, a life full of self-learning. I can take great pleasure from simply knowing more about myself.

      There’s a lot I could say about happiness. I think you’re right about living in the present moment as being extremely important.

      Thanks for the making me think more about this subject!

  3. I think happiness can and should be cultivated, I also believe that there is planning with a bit of spontaneity and magic involved. I am a believer so I have to make myself plan certain things to make them happen. I want to start planning my retirement to be enjoying it as opposed to being taken aback by it. I am sure that there is a ton of things that we can’t foresee or predict still it helps to be prepared for the inevitable.

    1. I like your idea about happiness being achieved through both planning and “magic.” Ah, retirement. I’m looking at retiring fairly soon myself. May we both retire and live the kind of life we truly want to live! Thanks for reading and commenting.

      1. I still have 20 years to go but I just need to think about it because decisions we make today have long-term effects… and also decisions we don’t make today also have long term effects…

      2. It’s never too early to start planning. I am very much a planner too. But I often have to remind myself not to forget the present moment in all those plans I’m making.

    1. Hey, SeekerFive! Good to hear from you. I never realized the connection you’ve pointed to, but I think you might be right. Thanks for helping me see my intentional/conditional approach to happiness in a new light.

  4. Interesting post Troy! Some people say that ultimately, happiness is a choice. If that’s true, choosing the right conditions makes total sense.

    1. Hey, Todd. It’s good to hear from you! I do think we choose to be happy. Unhappiness might be a different story though. I think happiness–whatever that word means–is more likely to happen if we prepare the “soil” first for “planting.” If we get the conditions right, then it can sort of “accidentally” happen to us. Thanks, man, for reading and for commenting.

  5. Can Happiness Be Cultivated? Yes, of course. Happiness comes from within. Be contented of what we have and we can be happy all the time. Have a nice day.

  6. Certainly an intriguing theory Troy. Sometimes conditions may not be met for several reasons, yet happiness may exist. Consider those who live in poverty and strife, yet are seen smiling, seemingly happy. So happiness, like unhappiness, comes and goes in waves. All is temporary. What we can do is cultivate happiness intentionally by beginning with small moments where we indulge our own happiness. I actually started the Happiness Project here on WP and other social media as a way to inject this intentionality among my readers/viewers. I think it’s the small simple moments that really begin to make a difference and help us to rise above into happiness and ultimately joy. Enjoyed your post. Thank you for sharing. And spreading happiness. 🌸

Leave a Reply